Last month, on April 1st, Sergeant Benjamin Anthony, founder of non-for-profit non-governmental organization Our Soldier Speaks, came to speak at the University of Connecticut. He began his presentation by sharing a traumatic experience from his childhood. One day, while walking to his Jewish school, Sergeant Anthony and his siblings were approached by a gang of adult men. These men brutally assaulted his brother until near death. In shock, Sergeant Anthony sprung his body over his brother’s to offer protection and he was severely beaten as well. This story helped the audience understand his decision to later move to Israel and join the Israel Defense Forces.
Due to Operation Protective Edge this past summer, Israel and the IDF were frequently the center of attention in media outlets all over the world. Some of the headlines regarding the IDF were very controversial and often misleading.
The IDF was accused of numerous war crimes, such as murdering young civilians and even of committing genocide. Through his personal experiences, Sergeant Benjamin Anthony was able to provide insight on the truths of the IDF and its soldiers. One of the stories that I found most powerful was one that he shared about what the men in his unit would do after a battle. He explained that they would not cheer or celebrate, but instead they all took out anything they could find to write on and began to write their wills. As a twenty-year-old college student, it was hard to fathom that men and women younger than I am are faced with such difficult decisions and situations that they are already writing their wills.
Later on, Sergeant Anthony began talking about the land of Israel and why he feels so passionate about fighting for the Jewish state. He explained that many say the Jewish people deserve Israel because of the Holocaust, which he believes to be morally unjust. At first, I did not recognize anything wrong with that statement. However, after further explanation, I too agree that the Jewish people do not deserve the land of Israel because of the Holocaust. The Jewish people have had a connection and right to the land of Israel dating back to the Bible. During the Holocaust, one in three Jews were killed. Is that what it should take for people to deserve their own land?
Throughout history, Jews have been exiled, dispersed, and persecuted against. Now, with the land of Israel, Jews no longer have to run or escape. It is a place where Jewish people from all over the world are always welcomed. Sergeant Anthony explained that this is why it is so important to defend Israel. The thing that stuck with me the most during the presentation was when Sergeant Anthony said, “a time of no war in Israel should not be confused with a time of peace.” Israel is constantly on the defensive. For instance, this past summer, Israel initiated Operation Protective Edge in response to the persistent rockets being fired upon civilian populations in Israel. From the beginning of the operation in July through August, over 4,382 rockets were fired at Israel by Hamas (a terrorist organization) and other terrorist groups in Gaza. This is just one of the many operations and wars Israel has fought in order to protect its existence.
The United States is one of Israel’s greatest allies; however, as Sergeant Anthony said, “that alliance is fading…on U.S. college campuses.” It is our job as college students to educate ourselves and not just accept what people tell us. When we hear something in the news or from a peer about Israel or the conflict in the Middle East, it is important to take a few minutes and research. We must distinguish between media over-exaggerations and biases, and reality. In an interview with CNN reporter Matt Friedman he stated that there was a “disproportionate focus” on Israel in the media. He further stated that the “treatment of this conflict is an obsession that skews the way we see the world.”
There are often misleading headlines and captions that tell a different story. Fact-checking articles and news sources helps ensure that you are getting accurate information and are not being misinformed. Men and women our age are risking their lives defending Israel’s borders every day. By staying informed and getting the facts straight, we, too, can play an integral part in defending Israel.